There are not many telecom markets globally where present revenues actually are lower than they were a decade ago, or even five years ago. In many cases, that is because net new customers are a huge driver of growth. In some markets, though, new customers are scarce. That is one reason why so many believe internet of things to be so important: it promises a huge increase in potential new customer applications, accounts and revenue.

In most markets, though, profit margins are an issue, even when revenue continues to grow, and most often that is because competition continues to build. In some cases, the competition takes the form of former customers removing their demand from the market, as when enterprises and content providers simply build and operate their own private networks. That removes some demand from the market for “public” network services (IP transit, for example).

In other cases, it is new and well-heeled competitors that drive the competition (as with Reliance Jio entering the Indian mobile market). In yet other cases, substitute products are the issue (over the top voice, messaging, content).

Margin compression is a reality of the global telecom business, and has been since voice revenues peaked in the United States either 2000 or 2001, and peaked globally a few years after that. For a time, the logical supplier response is to try and sell more units at lower prices. That can last only so long, however, as Telegeography data tends to suggest.

Text messaging has seen the same trend. Volume might be up. In some cases revenue is up. But profit margins are compressing, as Analysys Mason data and statistics from Informa Telecoms also show. 

Internet access bandwidth consumption likewise has followed a similar trend. Bandwidth prices on undersea routes continue to fall.  

Eventually, all that will catch up, which is why some predict that, eventually, the total number of service providers will shrink, with a relative handful of global or multi-national providers, and many local or regional providers of local connectivity, but not so many firms as presently earn a living in the business. That said, there always is room in the market for specialized providers of many types that generally serve niches that are too small for the giants to tackle.

That is the space traditionally reserved for value added resellers, distributors, consultants, sales agents, cooperatives and independent small providers who work in rural areas.